Friday, December 18, 2009

Perfect Winter Outing to Barnes WWT (40)

There was a full set of usuals: Gadwall, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Dabchick, Lapwing, Heron, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Crow, Woodpigeon, Black Headed, Herring Gulls, Egyptian Geese, Mute Swan, Wren, blue and great tits, Jackdaw, coot, Pochard, Canada Goose, Starling, Shelduck, Shoveler, Cormorant
Kestrel perched in a tree and Peregrine in the distance on what we hear is a regular perch on Charing Cross Hospital
Plus some winter specials: Snipe, Redwing, Fieldfare, Stonechat, Pintail
Plus Grey Wagtail and great views of a Water Rail
Best of all, 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS in clear view

Hong Kong again - 9th december

Back to Cyberport and had another chance to visit the little park where I added to my growing patchlist White-eye, Crested Mynah, Long-tailed tailor bird, Black Necked Staarling, Rufous backed shrike, Daurian Redstart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hong Kong Again

Back to Cyperport.
Whilst working in my room I sensed that some of the birds of prey had a different jizz from the usual Black Kites. And sure enough one was a Buzzard and the other a Northern Goshawk: soaring like a Peregrine, strongly barred tail.
On a brief venture into the waterfront park I found chinese Bulbul, Red Turtle Dove (very striking with grey head, red body and black rear collar), Black Faced Laughing thrush, Magpie Robin, White Wagtail, and a migrant Olive Backed (Indian Tree) Pipit.
There's definitely more to be found there....

USA - NYC, DC, Dallas, Sunrise

New York 24-28 Oct 2009
First sighting was a Peregrine Falcon at the top of the Empire State building.
Next a small Woodpecker outside a 5th Avenue store!
Up to Central park where we found American Robin, Blue Jay,
Dark Eyed Junco, Sparrows (see below),
From the Metropolitan Museum, we saw the Red Tailed Hawk being mobbed.
Later in the week, the park at Union Sq enabled us to nail the White Throated Sparrow, Gadwall and Mallard.
On to Washington. Near the Vietnam memorial, American Coot, Ring Billed Gull, Blue Jay, Double Crested Cormorant.
Red Tailed Hawks over the Mall. Grounds of the White House, Northern Mockingbird.
Next day, Northern Cardinal at the Botanic Garden. Trees at the foot of the Capitol: Mourning Dove and White Breasted Nuthatch. Chipping Sparrow in the Sculpture Garden.
Next day, Eastern Wood Pewee in Seward Square then on to Arlington Cemetery. As trailed by the enthusiastic Spanish bird bloggers, this was very good. Red Bellied Woodpecker early on. Then we found a brilliant patch of bush near Arlington House, where we got new lifers: Yellow Bellied Sapsucker (distinguishing call), Field Sparrow, Black Capped Chickadee, Crested Titmouse, Ruby Crowned Kinglet.
Unexpectedly, I was back in the US the following week. Initially in Dallas. The CBD seemed pretty desolate for birding - best bet seemed to be the area round the cemetery which turns into the grassy knoll of JFK assasination infamy.
On to Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale. a pretty desperate area of malls and car parks, but the landscaped lakes and trees (all that remains of lovely swampland I suspect) support some birds. Limpkin, White Ibis, American Redstart (which is, confusingly, brown and yellow!).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hong Kong 13 -17 Oct 2009

We stayed at the Meridien at Cyberport. Good to be away from the bustle and have a big view over the sea.
Black Kites wheeling all around. Overlooking some woodland where I saw a Greater Coucal. A small waterfront park was full of birds and merits a proper look - just Red Vented Bulbul and Magpie Robin on a jog-through.

Singapore Botanic Gardens 11 Oct 2009

Arrived in Sing hotel at about 1430 which gave just enough time to scoot across to the Botanic Gardens. Common Myna, Hill Myna, Spotted Necked Dove,Yellow Vented Bulbul, Phillipine Glossy Straling, COMMON GOLDEN BACKED WOODPECKER, Kingfisher, Lesser Whsitling Duck, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, White Breasted Water Hen, KOEL. Also saw a Falcon sitting in a tree in the Rainforest section and an aeagle flew overhead.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brazil 4 - Praia do Forte

Final location was Praia do Forte, a coastal resort on the Bahia about an hour north of Salvador. Our hotel had many Kiskadee's and Tyrants plus Marmosets. There is a nature reserve a couple of km out of town but I didn't manage to get there. The location where Brazil's national bird (some sort of blue parrot) could apparently be found is no more.The rest of the group went on a bumpy boat to look for Humpback whales, which left me a few hours to explore. I continued south on the beach and came first to where a lagoon filters into the sea. There was a sandpiper there and some SOUTHERN POCHARDS.Striated Herons everywhere.I trudged on through the soft sand occasionally going thru the undergrowth to check the lagoon. Crested Caracaras overhead. CHALK BROWED MOCKINGBIRDS in the shrubs. Finally (well only a couple of hundred metres really) the lagoon bent inland and I followed a path which therefore headed away from the coast to an area of secondary scrub. And it was brilliant there. I was just taking in an all russet bird when I turned round and saw the uniquely clear stare (I think its the yellow eye rims which do it) of a BLUE CRESTED TROGON on an nearby branch. Glorious.The only tracks on the path were those of a dog......or maybe a jaguar?? I decided to head back to the coast but then found one of those trees which is full of new birds - a TROPICAL GNATCATCHER, PALE BREASTED GROUND DOVE, SWAINSON'S FLYCATCHER, WHITE LINED TANAGER.

Brazil 3 - Manaus

On to Manaus. Up the river to our lodge where the grounds have more Cardinals, YELLOW RUMPED CACIQUE, GRAY BELLIED SWIFT over the water, BLUE AND GRAY TANAGER, BLACK NUNBIRD (prides in getting a massive insect in its beak), SILVER BEAKED TANAGER, TURQOUISE TANAGER, PALM TANAGER, WHITE THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, CHESTNUT WOODPECKER (from our hut), FORKTAILED FLYCATCHER. The pictured Toucanet I think is conclusively a GREEN ARACARI, despite Souza saying its out of range.On a late afternoon outing by boat we saw SMOOTH BILLED ANI (apparently a sure sign that monkeys are nearby) and watched a HAWK. We also had great views of a PINK DOLPHIN.Next morning our jungle walk included Rat Boa, Bullet Ant (12 months to recover from a bite) and some amazing big blue Morpho butterflies. Also glimpsed a SCREAMING PIHA in addition to hearing it all the time (our guide Anselmo says they contribute to lost folk going crazy).Afternoon trip to meet a local tribe added RINGED KINGFISHER and YELLOW BILLED TERNSunrise canoe added LADDER TAILED NIGHTJAR and a squadron of Military Macaws overhead (RED BELLIED MACAW)Later morning outing to Monkey Sanctuary ( squirrel and red-faced) and and we finally nailed the local 'hawk' as a YELLOW HEADED CARACARA,On our final day a stunning VIOLACEOUS TROGON from our hut.

Our first venture back to Manaus was taking the boat to the 'meeting of the waters' phenomenon, where a 'black' and 'green' river flow together unmingled for some distance after they merge. At the first landfall off the green river, a native village was our first reclaimed land and there were some new birds which I couldn't identify. An Antbird maybe? SPOTTED SANDPIPER.Then it was off on a speedboat along various waterways through a marshy area which was very good for birds as well as sloth and Iguana. We had great views of the magnificent BLACK COLLARED HAWK, a SQUIRREL CUCKOO, SCYTHEBILL, Snowy Egret, MUSCOVY DUCK (a very ugly motherd***er), WHITE FACED WHISTLING DUCK, CUI PARAKEET, the gigantic AMAZON KINGFISHER, LIMPKIN, BLACK CARACARA, and probably the greatest rarity deep in a flooded forest, beautiful CAPPED HERONS.Our schedule allowed a half day free in Manaus so we were determined to go to one of the sites mentioned in the World's Greatest 100 Birding Sites. The one which caught the eye was the INPA metereological tower, because it mentioned the possibility (heavily caveated) of Harpy Eagle . Our guide kindly put loads of effort into trying to find out how to get in, and eventually went to INPA directly who said that it had been closed to birders for some time because their visits had damaged/affected some instrumentation there.So the next listed venue was the Adolfo Ducke 'reserve'. An agency offered to provide a guide who had never been there before! So we decided to go it alone, and Anselmo asked to come to see if it would be a good place to bring future groups.It turns out that this is in fact a massive area of reserve with very limited access. The primary access is the Botanic Gardens, which is a very sleepy enterprise. A chap put on a shirt and boots and became a guide (which is mandatory). He led us round a maze of paths and kept looking intelligently into the trees, but the only bird we saw was a Woodcreeper which I spotted. So we decided to cut our losses and head to the other entrance described by the guide and consistent with the birding report I had found on the web. The adventure involves finding the KM 26 post on the main road, where one has escaped the city limits and is in an area of forest and big estates. At the post a track through some old iron gates heads spookily into the forest. The report describes that several km up this track is some sort of establishment. However, the first 50m has been dug up to prevent anything other than a 4x4 getting up there. So we left the car at the entrance and (somewhat nervously on my part)started along the track. The mood was not helped when an Agouti sighting prompted comment that this is a Jaguar's favourite prey, and Anselmo to confirm that yes this looked like certain Jaguar territory, and no they weren't afraid of people. I noticed that everyone had a leak in quick succession at this point.With no birds yet seen we decided to head back to the car and, as so often happens, just as we got close Leo spotted a Nunbird, which triggered Anselmo to see a Monksaci, a rare and scary looking monkey - black fur, stumpy tail and dark brown face. Very spooky to see this muscular dark figure jumping through the trees and scrutinising us. But venturing a few yards into the thick jungle also yielded good views of a RED NECKED WOODPECKER.It all felt rather strange - in a Tom Waits 'What's he building in there?' way. It is obviously an area actively used for some purpose as the track is in good nick and there are new markers every 10 yards or so. But they seem very keen to keep people out. Is it because of the special wildlife? Or some mysterious metereological experiment?Either way it seems a missed opportunity not to have organised access to some good birding facilities in this special area, as it would surely bring in good money.

Brazil 2- Igacu

Off to Igacu, and first the Itapu Dam where we notched up Turkey Vulture, SNOWY EGRET, BANANAQUIT and from the car park CRESTED CARACARA.

On to the highly bizarre and downright spooky Hotel Carima where a damp dusk tour of the grounds added a WHITE WINGED SWALLOW and WATTLED JACANA and got us close enough to confirm that the hummingbirds we have been seeing are VIOLET CAPPED WOODNYMPHS and WHITE THROATED EMERALD (distinguished by the red bill). RED RUMPED CACIQUE. PALE BREASTED THRUSH.

Next day and off to the Bird Park where the aviaries are excellent for learning the local birds and especially for a very handsome pair of Harpy Eagles. But it is also a very good spot for wild birds and we saw TOCO TOUCAN, a juvenile BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON way up in a tree, PLUSH CRESTED JAY, RUFOUS CROWNED MOTMOT, GUIRA CUCKOO.

On to the stunning Igacu falls where we saw BLUE DACNIS and NEOTROPIC CORMORANT and an Azara's Aguti. On the road out a CRESTED CARACARA on the floor and ROADSIDE HAWK on the wires.

Back at the hotel it finally brightened up and I found an old orchard in the grounds where (before the mossies drove us away) we saw Smooth Billed Ani, CHOPI BLACKBIRD, EPAULET ORIOLE, SAYACA TANAGER, SAFFRON FINCH.

Short visit to the orchard before breakfast yielded one mossy bite and a CAMPO FLICKER. It was worth a bite....... Also some SHINY COWBIRDS. Then whilst waiting at the Argentinian border, a BLuE AND WHITE SWALLOW on a lamppost. House Sparrows frequent. GREEN KINGFISHER on a wire. At Iguacu, we saw South American Guinea Pig, GREEN IBIS, WING BARRED MANNIKIN then from the walkway a Broad Nosed Caiman, YELLOW BILLED CARDINAL, GRAY BREASTED MARTIN, then a Crested Caracara put up a glorious ANHINGA - really looks like a flying snake. Then Leo claimed an EULERS FLYCATCHER. After a speed boat trip under the falls we saw CATTLE TYRANT and CHALK BROWED MOCKINGBIRD.

Then, whilst rest of group went on a helicopter ride we had 30mins back in the Bird Park. Nothing new until the car park (so often the case) where we found CHESTNUT BELLIED EUPHONIA and VIOLACEOUS EUPHONIA.

Brazil 1 - Rio

Always good to see a first bird from the plane before disembarking, and in this case it was a Black Vulture. In the minibus to the hotel there came suddenly a bellow of 'Frigatebird' from Leo and there they were - MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD huge birds, very distinctive shapes. And a Great Egret.Off to Christ the Redeemer statue, where there were SWALLOWS in the air and RUFOUS COLLARED SPARROWS on the ground. And an Aqaati!The next morning off to Sugar Loaf. In the car park there, in a mango tree, GREAT KISSADEE and RUDDY GROUND DOVE. From the top, great views BLACK CHESTED BUZZARD EAGLE, hovering 300m up. Little Marmosets running around. And a LESSER KISKADEE in the trees.At the Maracana stadium, SOUTHERN LAPWING in Pele's spot on the goal line.In the afternoon, off to the Botanic Gardens which is a great birding spot. Lots of RUFOUS-BELLIED THRUSH, GRAY-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER, CREAmY BELLIED THRUSH, BROWN TANAGER. A lovely MASKED WATER TYRANT. A RUFOUS HORNERO taking a dustbath. TROPICAL KINGBIRD. Anne spotted 2 DUSKY LEGGED GUANS. At the pool, Kiskadee's in classic flycatcher action. Then we started seeing parrots - PLAIN PARAKEET. I had just seen glorious GREEN HEADED TANAGERs when Anne spotted our first Toucan (albeit with a cry of 'Hornbill'!). RED BREASTED TOUCAN, probably the most extraordinarily striking first sight ever. Unbelievable.We came back towards the Leme hotel along the lagoon and saw through the dusk COCAL HERON and STRIATED HERON and Common Moorhen.Next morning we trooped down on to Copacabana beach and identified the birds glimpsed yesterday as BROWN BOOBYs. Superb birds, perfect markings, streamlined and sometimes skimming inches above the water.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heron v Gull

On my Thames Towpath run today watched a Common Gull attacking a Grey Heron. Quite a crowd gathered as it went on for at least 10 mins. The gull was divebombing like a falcon, and then occasionally swooping in along the water 'under the radar'. If it attacked from the front, the Heron would attack back with its bill, but it didnt see the attacks coming from other directions and yelped with shock whilst ducking.
Eventually the gull gave up, and the heron decided it would then move on anyhow.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Life List

I have completed a count of all my records and am now at 699

Abu Dhabi 21 Jun 2008

2 Day business trip. Anticipating the opportunity I asked for advice on the UAE birding forum. The response was initally discouraging..... "Gut reaction? Stay in your hotel and watch the National Geographic channel or BBC Wildlife! Its hot hot hot here now... If you want to try something a bit more adventurous, get out your suncream, hat and a truck-load of water and try this option: Take a taxi to the area next to (west of) the Emirates Palace Hotel (called 'Khalidiyah' or, to a taxi-driver, the public beach). From the western breakwater you can view a channel where you have a chance of Saunder's, Bridled and White-cheeked Terns, plus Socotra Cormorant. If you look from the public beach back towards the city you'll see the remains of a fine row of mature trees that used to form a huge rectangle round the area between the public beach and the other end of the Emirates Palace grounds. The remaining trees should hold the odd Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and possibly a Rufous Bush Robin."

It was indeed hot, but I followed the advice and had a good outing. At the breakwater I saw Laughing Doves, a Cormorant - but I couldnt say it was Socotra, and BRIDLED TERNS. In the stand of trees were many WHITE CHEEKED BULBULS, INDIAN HOUSE CROW (pic), Purple Sunbird, and some Sandgrouse. An early evening walk in thje cOrniche park yielded Graceful Prinia (pic).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Zermatt 1-4 May 2009

Flew to Geneva then train to Zermatt. Red Kites over the water of Lake Geneva. Wonderful to be back in Zermatt and back at the Kisseye. Snows in the last couple of days left deep drifts to haul our bags through. Along towards Pam in Winkelmatten, Black Redstart and great views of a Redpoll.

Coal Tits outside the chalet as before. Next day Alpine Chough and Crag Martin overhead. One of the few winter hikes available is up to Ried and we saw Treecreeper, Crested Tit, ROCK BUNTING (pic), Great Tit, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush.

Day 2 took the walk to Furi and added Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Nutcracker(pic), Golden Eagle, Dipper(pic).

Final day excellent walk via Moos to Furi and then on until avalanche risk seemed unnecessary. Jay, Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Czech Republic

At Brno airport possible Black Redstart, and Collared Dove. Lots of hares in the fields attracting some big birds of prey, which we nailed as IMPERIAL EAGLES as we passed through the battlefield of Austerlitz, rather appropriately.

On the journey to Uherske Hradiste (lovely rural landscapes) we also saw Marsh Harrier, House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Pheasant, Lapwing, Starling, White Stork. Passed through glorious Zhivago-style beech forests at the pass over into UH - a road much enjoyed by Motorbikers.
From Adela's flat, Goldfinch. At lake near Lednice, Great Crested Grebe, Dabchick, Coot, Pochard. At the chateau: Grey Heron, Night Heron, Blackcap, White Wagtail, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Red Crested Pochard, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, GREY HEADED WOODPECKER superbly spotted by Leo and id confirmed by its 9 note song, Mallard, Kestrel.

At the lake on the way to Valtice we stopped and Lydia brilliantly saw a bird in the Vineyard which turned out to be one of a pair of HAWFINCHes.

Next day on the walk up from Buchlovice to Buchlov Castle: Black Redstart, Greater and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Siskin, Willow Tit, Jay, Magpie, Robin, Tree Sparrow, Long Tailed Tit.

At Velehrad, Sparrowhawk.

At the Model Village in Roznov Pod Radhostem, ChiffChaff and CROSSBILL.

On to Prague, where in the Petrin woodlands we found Willow Warbler.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Counting on the Thames (Year List R30, L29)

On my run, met a chap who counts the numbers of birds on the river between Putney and Barnes bridges every month. He said Wigeon never seen on river, Pintail east of Putney Bridge, more Dabchicks than usual maybe due to cold spell meaning they need bigger water expanse.
I wonder if his results are published online?